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Southend Bookstart is Celebrating 25 years of Bookstart!

Friday, 3rd November 2017

Bookstart, the world’s first universal book-gifting scheme was founded by Wendy Cooling in 1992.  Early research by Professor Barry Wade and his colleague, Maggie Moore, showed how book-gifting impacted positively on 300 babies’ reading for pleasure as they grew up, with the first report being published in 1993 and the second in 1998 when the 300 babies started school. Funding by Sainsbury’s in 1999 enabled the universal programme to be created across England and Wales, with support from many publishers and at last, in 2004, the government stepped in and funded three universal book-gifting programmes.

Today free books are given to all children at two key stages before school, helping families read together and inspiring children to develop a love of books and reading. Bookstart began to roll out across the borough in 1999.  Since then thousands of Bookstart resources have been gifted to families in Southend 

  • Over 30,000 Bookstart Baby Bags (for under ones)
  • Over 11,000 Bookstart Plus Packs (for 2 ½ year-olds, now discontinued)
  • Over 25,000 Treasure Packs (for 3-4 year olds)
  • Over 300 Additional Needs Packs (for children who are blind, deaf or who have disabilities   impacting on their fine motor skills)
  • 2, 330 Dual Language Books (for families who read at home in their native language)
  • 13,400 New library members signed up through Bookstart


Our Partners

The Southend Bookstart Team is based at the Forum and works in partnership with Libraries, Health Professionals, Early Years and twenty-two wonderful Bookstart Volunteers. The Team also collaborates with other council departments and organisations taking the Bookstart message out into the Southend community.

Bookstart runs eleven Storyrhyme sessions each week in branch libraries throughout the Southend borough.   These are half hour sessions of stories and nursery rhymes for children under 5 years and their parents and carers.  The sessions are planned and run by volunteers.  They are provided free of charge and attract an average of 180 families per week.

Storyrhymes provide an invaluable resource to the community, establishing a support network for parents and carers and the opportunity for children to enhance their social interaction, communication skills and language development. The sessions also help with self-confidence and concentration skills in preparation for school readiness.

Health Professionals recommend Storyrhymes as part of their Bookstart gifting process, to support bonding and to encourage an early enjoyment of books and learning.

A few quotes from our Storyrhyme families

“My daughter who is almost 6 months old loved her first session today. She laughed the whole way through.” (Laura)

“We were so pleased and loved how welcoming everybody was. Will be back next week and have told my friends about it” (Rebecca)

“I think it’s fantastic these sessions exist and run for free. I’d be very limited in what I could do with my baby otherwise.” (Kelly)

For more information please contact the Bookstart Team on 01702 212120 or visit



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